Special thanks to theWriteReads and Egmont Publishing for providing me with an ARC.
Amari Peters knows three things.
Her big brother Quinton has gone missing.
No one will talk about it.
His mysterious job holds the secret . . .
So when Amari gets an invitation to the Bureau of Supernatural Affairs, she’s certain this is her chance to find Quinton. But first she has to get her head around the new world of the Bureau, where mermaids, aliens and magicians are real, and her roommate is a weredragon.
Amari must compete against kids who’ve known about the supernatural world their whole lives, and when each trainee is awarded a special supernatural talent, Amari is given an illegal talent – one that the Bureau views as dangerous.
With an evil magician threatening the whole supernatural world, and her own classmates thinking she is the enemy, Amari has never felt more alone. But if she doesn’t pass the three tryouts, she may never find out what happened to Quinton . . . (Goodreads)
Amari and the Night Brothers is a charming fantastical middle-grade book that promises to open a new world for its readers. It delivers and then some! Managing to introduce us to a world that is, in some vague ways, reminiscent of the wizarding world, but far larger and dare I say better. For being such a vast world it is well realized, as well as the characters in the story. The relationships between the characters definitely had Percy Jackson-vibes, a fleshed-out realism that makes them all the more relatable and loveable.
For me, this book was often reminiscent of the Men in Black franchise but on a much larger and more magical scale. This is the sort of book I would have been obsessed with when I was in the intended age category, and still intend to follow as an adult. This book manages to pack a large story into a small package and knowing there is more to come and so much more of this world to explore in what makes this book memorable. This is the sort of book you read as a kid and obsess over, convinced that if your nomination was detected that you’d follow in our titular heroine Amari’s path.
This book, most importantly, manages to pack in some heavy themes. Tackling issues children today, and children of yesterday, have dealt with. It’s a type of story we need more of.
Amari and the Night Brothers is a fun book for everyone, regardless of age. There are lessons to be learned, fun to be had, and so many interesting characters to meet along the way. I’m glad to have had the opportunity to read this book and look forward to future instalments.
Morgan and Eli, two Indigenous children forced away from their families and communities, are brought together in a foster home in Winnipeg, Manitoba. They each feel disconnected, from their culture and each other, and struggle to fit in at school and at their new home — until they find a secret place, walled off in an unfinished attic bedroom. A portal opens to another reality, Aski, bringing them onto frozen, barren grounds, where they meet Ochek (Fisher). The only hunter supporting his starving community, Misewa, Ochek welcomes the human children, teaching them traditional ways to survive. But as the need for food becomes desperate, they embark on a dangerous mission. Accompanied by Arik, a sassy Squirrel they catch stealing from the trapline, they try to save Misewa before the icy grip of winter freezes everything — including them. (Goodreads)
I don’t often read middle-grade for no particular reason. There are a number of books on my TBR that actually happen to be middle-grade but for whatever reason, I’ve continually put off reading them. The Barren Grounds quickly reminded me how great these books can be, even if they’re intended for an audience much younger than myself.
I thoroughly enjoyed this book, and am going to get the negative out of the way by saying there is none. This is an amazing book, with amazing character development and world-building. It also serves as an introduction to indigenous culture for those who may not as familiar with it. This book had me in tears at one point, and I was so invested in the world. The books does have some similarities to the classic Chronicles of Narnia, but I personally found this much more interesting and engaging.
I learned some new things about indigenous culture from this book that sparked an internet deep-dive into the history of many First Nations people, their beliefs and cultural practices. I found my eyes opened to a culture, that I was aware of but never truly saw. This book opens the readers to a fantasy world, yes, but it also opens a part of our world so often forgotten or overlooked. I want everyone to read this book, be moved by the story, and be inspired to learn more. I recommend reading this book, and then going out and finding out more about the beautiful stories that inspired this one.
Rating: 4 out of 5.
Rating: 4 out of 5.
Rating: 4 out of 5.
15 Thoughts While Reading
I was glad to find that Morgan and Eli seem to have been placed in a truly caring foster home. I understand that that is not always the case, but this particular home has great potential. I also realized how much more meaning this had to me as an adult who is old enough to have children.
I learned about some First Nations dishes, which lead me to research more about the culture, particularly cuisine.
It was easy to draw immediate parallels between The Chronicles of Narnia and The Barren Grounds; which the portal to Misewa being opened through a drawing and one of the portals to Narnia being opened through a painting.
I learned about fishers. Prior to reading this book, I had never heard of such an animal.
I found myself often relating to Morgan in her feelings of disconnection to her heritage and the anger that made her feel.
I found myself contemplating the ethical conundrum that Ochek was faced with when he and the children came across Arik. And wondered what I would do in such a situation.
I noticed the allegory against colonizers in the description of the antagonist. It reminded me how truly wasteful modern society is, and how we take advantage of nature.
Robertson does a good job setting up a mystery surrounding Morgan’s origin, as well as Eli’s in a sense. I want to know more about how they got in the foster care system, and if it had to do with legitimate concerns or one’s based on discrimination and ignorance.
I was very interested in the character of Mahihkan, and wanted to know more about him. Especially whether or not his presence held more weight that I may have noticed.
With the mentions of North and South country, I became more curious about the stories that could be set in this world. So much was set up, with things only mentioned hopefully with the intent to more fully explore.
I was reminded of how beautiful the indigenous languages are with the book’s inclusion of Cree words. It makes me want to cry knowing that these languages are in danger of dying out.
Learning one of the stories behind what we call the Big Dipper was a beautiful experience and during this scene in the book, I cried quite a bit.
Morgan truly grew in this book, that was a beautiful thing to see. She and Eli found a home not only in Misewa but in each other.
The way time worked in this story fascinated me, especially in the final conversation between the kids and Arik. Could they have sat there and talked for a literal eternity?
The final poem was so beautiful. I read it more than once.